In Tribute: Judith Durham and Olivia Newton-John

Words: Matt Innes

The Australian music industry is mourning two beloved icons this week with the passing of Judith Durham AO and Olivia Newton-John, both leaving behind their own remarkable legacies as powerhouse trailblazers.

As the frontwoman for folk-pop quartet the Seekers, Judith Durham helped pioneer the international expansion of the Australian music industry during the 1960s. Selling more than 50 million records worldwide, the Seekers were the first Australian group to attain major chart success in the United States and United Kingdom.

The Seekers formed in Melbourne in 1962 by Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley, with Judith replacing original lead singer Ken Ray that same year. The band secured initial success at home with their 1963 debut album ‘Introducing The Seekers’ before travelling to Britain where their blend of folk, pop and rock found favour with the media and young music audiences. It was a similar story in the US where 1966 single ‘Georgy Girl’ became their highest-charting American hit.

Judith parted ways with the Seekers in 1968 to pursue a solo career, recording and releasing a long stream of studio and live albums up until 2018. In 1995, Judith along with her Seekers bandmates were inducted into the ARIA Music Awards Hall of Fame; in 2019, Judith was inducted to the Australian Women in Music Awards Honour Roll in recognition of her significant contributions as a singer-songwriter.

Judith Durham passed away on 5 August 2022 aged 79 and will be honoured with a state funeral in Victoria.

Though born in the UK, Olivia Newton-John always considered herself an Australian and we were more than happy to call her one of our own. A singer, actress and devoted activist, Olivia won both hearts and minds over the course of her enduring career.

Olivia realised early success as a singer and performer, appearing on a string of Australian television shows in the mid ‘60s before releasing her debut solo album ‘If Not For You’ in 1971. She followed up with several album releases throughout the decade before starring as Sandy in the film adaptation of Broadway hit ‘Grease’ in 1978, which spawned a plethora of unforgettable hits in songs like ‘Greased Lightnin’’, ‘Summer Nights’ and ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’.

Olivia maintained a consistent presence throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s as both a singer and actor as well as an entrepreneur with her Koala Blue line of Australian clothing and merchandise. She also became a devoted advocate for numerous health and humanitarian causes, particularly breast cancer awareness for which she was diagnosed in 1992.

Despite her health issues, Olivia continued to work into the 2000s, releasing and number of albums and performing several tours. Among her many accolades, Olivia has been honoured with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981 and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2021, she joined Judith on the Australian Women in Music Awards Honour Roll.

Olivia Newton-John passed away on 8 August 2022 aged 73.

MADCAP Global Managing Director Stephen Morris promoted the expansive back catalogues of Judith and Olivia during his time at Mushroom Records in the ‘90s and remembers them fondly for their immense talent and personal strength.

“They were beautiful, ground-breaking women that rose to the top in what must be the toughest industry to break into, let alone endure as each did so magnificently despite their health issues,” he says.

The entire MADCAP Global team offers their condolences to the friends and family of both Judith and Olivia, along with our humble gratitude for all the joy they gave us through song and film.

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